General Plâton Freyjason Rai'enjoh
A.k.a the Strongest Man on Aqualon, Godslayer, General of Midas Creek, Heir of Stalin, Son of Freyja, Dog of the Clockwork
“Hm, I have seen that black armor before… Did you guys’ boss kick me across a battlefield like forty years back?” She rubbed her sternum, which still hurt sometimes when the weather changed too quickly because of that particular encounter.
The two men looked at each other. “That depends, did he figuratively kick you across the battle field, or literally?” inquired Kêhlon.
And the other one added: “Literally also implying only a single kick, not some sort of sick ball game.”
“Yes, by Odin! Clear across the entire battlefield! I couldn’t see the damn battle anymore! I’m pretty sure he broke my sternum! And the landing cracked my ass bone. It was very unpleasant.”
They both exchanged meaningful looks again and not-Kêhlon replied, “Well, then yes, that was our boss. And since you survived that, you are… a Valkyrie I assume?”
— Odin's Vallkyrie as her passage to the Middle Lands is barred by two Midas Men guarding the border, 1703 GE
Flowing red hair, broad shoulders wrapped in a cloak of white, and a wide grin. If anyone were to recall an encounter with Plâton Rai'enjoh these days, these three things would likely be part of their tale, for the strongest man on Aqualon rarely lets go of the magical Angel Saxon
cloak gifted to him by his adoptive mother Freyja, and his positive, joyful attitude even in the face of disaster and battle has inspired many. Also he has great hair.
The Broad Strokes of Plâton's Life
The tale of Plâton is a long one, but one with no beginning. He was found by Freyja wandering through the deepest regions of the North Pole near the Bifröst Gate to Asgard, though after she saved and healed him, he no longer remembered anything from before, having lost his memory to the frost.
Across the Rainbow Bridge
Freyja took him in as her adoptive son, and he spent his youth in the mythic realm of Asgard where the Old Gods live, but he won no favors there, for the Old Gods had grown cruel and secluded after losing the Great War. In time, he would earn his place at least among the Nordmen servants of the gods, but all that was for naught when the Moon War started and the last Vanier were wiped out. Freyja fell out of grace and was banished to Helgard, and Plâton had to flee and hide within the Smallwoods, Freyja's former domain.
Conqueror of the Gods
It would not be after he had lived in secrecy with her Valkyries and ultimately fallen to the mighty hammer of Thor that he would discover the power of the Clockwork
, and with it behind him, he rallied his sisters and they marched onto Odenheim and defeated the Old Gods.
He would not stay there long but instead made Odin his steward and left for the High North, where he visited the stony halls of the Angel Saxons, hidden in the magic mist. Tales of his conquest of Asgard had made their way to High Saxia, and he was welcomed by his kinsmen and furbished with Angel Saxon arms and armor.
Around the World
After that he went on a journey across the world, seeing and learning many things, fighting many battles with powerful fighters and mages. He traveled across the Iron Belt and defeated the vile animancer Kalim Gothgorat on the Four Pillars of Sternsmooth. In time, he returned to the Great Land and rallied the Angel Saxons in Albeney
to attack the northern Yamato
Foothills, trying to annex new territory for his people. There he was met with unexpected resistance: The sellsword army of Midas Creek
, led by the feared general Stalin Rai'enjoh. The Angel Saxon forces were driven back eventually, but Plâton refused to yield, facing the entire army on his own, taking out over a hundred men before Stalin rallied his troops and used ropes and nets to bind and incapacitate him.
Heir of Stalin, Defeater of Balsibart
Plâton was now Stalin's prisoner, but he broke out of six increasingly impressive holding cells with brute force until he could finally be held. Every day Stalin would meet with Plâton and talked to him. In time, he was released and joined the Midas Men as an officer.
For years, Stalin groomed Plâton for command, until finally he retired and the Midas Men were under Plâton's control. With them behind his back he fought in several minor wars, including the Battle of the Saltplains, where he was instrumental in the defeat of Balsibart the Bard alongside Atlas Muundir, the Lord of Water. Once the battle had been concluded and Balsibart sealed beneath the Saltplains, Plâton decided he had to discover himself anew, a strange attitude shared by many who had been touched by the song of Balsibart.
Plâton the Increasingly Wise
Once again, Plâton traveled the lands of Aqualon, now a little bit older and wiser. He began reading the old Yamato philosophy texts while meditating with the monks of Nyingma and started writing his own book about martial arts and philosophy called "the Book of Taishôgeki", which means something along the lines of "the Great Impact". In it he speaks of his relationship with the Great Clockwork and the thoughts that passed his mind on the path to enlightenment.
Forger of Newgate, Master of High Rock
Before he started putting his work to paper though, he fought one of the Valkyries on top of the tallest peak of the Yamato Mountain Range, Mt. Tenbashira, and defeated her. She had been the Valkyrie of Thor and out for revenge. As the legend goes, he ripped her soul out of her shattered body and forged it into a great metal gate that connected the physical world to the Great Clockwork on top of that mountain, where he had a monastery built to pass on his teachings.
In truth he never stole or conquered anyone's soul. What he did pull from the Valkyrie was the fragment of Wyrd, the well of her power bestowed onto her by her god. The gate, however, is standing to this day, a magic machine he built in a mad trance, erecting a new intersecting point between the Great Clockwork and this world, allowing those who dared to travel into the beyond with their physical bodies and possibly, but not always, return.
He named the monastery High Rock and taught his own and classic Yamato philosphy to a number of acolytes, also showing them the secrets of the martial art he had started developing out of ancient styles he had seen around the world.
Love, Life, and Tragedy
After a decade atop Mt. Tenbashira, he went North again, back to the Angel Saxons and fell in love with one of theirs, Aria of House Sleipnir. They initially lived in High Saxia where they had a son named Pellos but moved to Plâton's old home in Midas Creek of the Yellow Sands to raise him. He became a soldier of the Midas Men and fought in a war Plâton only advised the army on, perishing at the young age of 37. Plâton and Aria had to move away from Midas Creek no longer able to stay in the place their son had called home. They moved back to High Saxia and remained in the care of House Sleipnir. Two decades later, they had their second child, a beautiful daughter. But she was discovered to be one of the Keepers, and as per ancient treaty, she had to be taken away to the Tower of Five
to be raised by the other Keepers. Aria was grief-struck at losing another child and grew sick, eventually dying before her time.
Once more, Plâton left. Having nothing anymore, he dedicated his life to the Great Clockwork, becoming a true agent of fate.
The Tale of the Boy who Would Live with the Gods
Nothing is known about the birth of Plâton, for he himself has forgotten everything before his life with the Old Gods began. The following texts about his time in Asgard are excerpts of his tale as he told it to the Keeper of Water Atlas Muundir on their joint travels during the Yellow Glimmer Crisis, which began in 1703 GE.
Traveling through the ice of the High North far past the snow zone, a young Plâton collapses near the Bifröst Gate and is saved by the goddess Freyja, who takes him into her house and adopts him as her new son...
Read Part 1 of "The Boy Who Would Live With the Gods"
This excerpt was taken from Aqualon, Rise of the Broken, chapter 4.
This is a story that begins with the day my mother first held me in her arms.
This may seem like the normal beginning of any story, but I was no newborn at that time: I was a dying young boy. Wandering the icy lands of the high north I lost my way. Had I been hunting with a party back then? With my father perhaps? I don’t remember anything of that life, much like you don’t remember most of your past life, Atlas. All I know is that I was lost in the ice and stumbling towards a slow death, surrounded by cold white nothingness.
I walked and walked forever, and five eternities seemed to pass me by as the snow fell endlessly. When I finally fell to my knees, two giant men seemed to appear in front of me. But they were no men: they were statues, the pillars of the Bifröstgate, which leads to the Bifröst, a rainbow river of light that flows to the realm of the old northern gods, you see. It is as much legend to the Nords as those gods themselves, and that I was born a Nord is as easy to see as the fire in my hair. When I laid eyes upon those two guardian statues, the northern lights began to erupt from the night sky, thick clouds above suddenly tearing open, glowing in all the colors you can imagine, cascading down, down to where I was kneeling, flowing into the gate like a river of light.
I saw a veiled figure emerge as the world turned darker and darker in my fever. I thought it was a sweet maiden come to carry me to Helgard where my ancestors were waiting for me, but it was not. It was a woman of the Aesir, the old gods. She had come through the Bifröst and found me lying there, dying. She picked me up and carried me to her hall, into the realm of Asgard that has been cut out of time by the faceless world-shaper. That is where my story begins.
I opened my eyes with the dead sleepiness of the snow slumber still in my bones, but the cold had been swept away by the warmth of a crackling hearth and the lap of a woman grown. I was a boy of eight, perhaps ten years, and the frost had taken most of my memory with it as if it was a prize to be clawed from me in return for the life the woman had stolen. Her smile was as warm as her embrace and her hair yellow like the midday sun, her eyes blue as the sky. “Mother?” It was more instinct than question that made me blurt that word with my weak mumbled voice and I could feel the breaths painfully whenever fresh air filled my lungs.
The cold had bitten deep. Her smile faded then, I remember it, but it was not anger or denial I saw in her features then, just marvel, she marveled at me. Why did she marvel at me? Such a beautiful woman, marveling at an ordinary child such as me, why?
“Yes…” she then replied, “Yes, I am your mother.” She wrapped her arms around me to hold me tighter. “My son,” she said. And my eyes closed again and the sleep overtook me once more.
But this time I did not dream of deadly cold and encroaching ice, just of warm spring and soft, rolling hills and the smell of beautiful flowers that were scented just like the kindly woman who now was my mother.
I awoke again two times and went back to the dark just as quick, before I had regained enough strength to finally rise. The woman never left and kept me warm in her lap. I could not tell for how long, for time seemed meaningless to me in that moment. Death was looming too close still, and he is the only true lord of time. When death walks near you his power over you is greater than that of the Great Clockwork. The gears fall in line before him and turn to his melody.
When I woke for the fourth time, I could drag myself onto my feet. The kindly woman was still with me and with me she rose. Around her neck she wore a fox pelt shawl of white, her cloak was made of a thousand thousand white and gray feathers, and her gloves were made of fine black leather, though one of them lay there besides the place she had sat.
I still remember that one glove lying on the ground as if it had been just yesterday. My hand went up to my forehead where I pressed it firmly. My mind seemed not to be in order that day. I thought of a rainbow river, a storm of ice, a great hall, a small shack in a light, mossy forest with a white, little stream running before the door, but I could focus on none of those things as they all spun around so quickly and turned into a blurry haze that taunted me so.
“Easy my child, the frost was upon you when I found you and you were slipping into the snow slumber. The strength will leave you soon again if you stand too long,” the kindly woman said and she pulled a beautifully carved oaken chair from a long table for me to sit on.
I almost missed it when I tried to sit down. I felt tears well up in my eyes, though why I did not know. “What happened to me? Where am I…?” there must have been fear in my voice for she embraced me as a mother embraces her child when it is afraid, and it made me feel safe again. Her warmth seemed to incorporate all the opposites of the dead cold that had tried to drag me to Helgard before.
“You got lost in the snow and the spirits of the ancestors guided you to the Bifröstgate. They guided me there as well and that is how I found you,” she said with a voice like a summer breeze, like the oceans waves and the mountain winds. “You have swum the rainbow river and entered the realm of Asgard, one of the two that remain of the nine realms of the beginning.” Looking about, I saw that I was in some sort of large shack or longhouse made of strong, old wood. On the other side of the long table was a big hearth. There also was a large bed with many ostentatious pelts. On some sort of shrine at the wall stood a bowl of clear water with a small gear inside that stood up on its side all by itself, turning endlessly like a waterwheel and creating soft splashing sounds that calmed the mind. “Who are you? … and who am I?” I kept asking. There were so many questions; things that I once took for granted had gone with the frost and I could not remember, no matter how much I wanted to. The fear was still there, so I returned the embrace this time, almost clawed into her back as if I was afraid she would go away if I let go.
“I am Freyja, the keeper of the small woods, most just call me Lady,” she explained, “and your name I do not know. Would you like to have one?” she asked kindly.
“Frey-ja…” I said slowly to see how the word would feel on my tongue. “I… would like to have a name, yes!”
She nodded and pointed to the bed. “I shall see if I can acquire a lexicon. You should lie down and rest some more. Just have some of this before you go to sleep.” She opened a small cupboard and pulled out a wooden bowl and spoon and filled it with hot soup from a cauldron above the hearth’s fire.
It was the best thing I had ever eaten, or so I thought. I could not remember eating ever before. After I had emptied the bowl, the sleepiness had spread out from my bones back into my body and head once again and I did as I was told, lying down inside the pelts and furs. They were soft and warm, but somehow none so as the lap of the kindly woman, Freyja. That time I mumbled the name over and over before falling back into oblivion. I wanted to burn her name into my mind so I would never forget and show her that I could remember. She was my mother and I wanted to be the best son to her that I could, there was nothing else for me in the world, everything else had been taken. And with these thoughts on my mind I went back to sleep…
The Lexicon and the Path to Odenheim
After having recovered from the savage bite of frost in the arms of his new mother Freyja, the child had forgotten his past. The goddess left to travel to the realms of the Nordmen and procure a lexicon to give a new name to the boy, and that name would be Plâton. Once his name was revealed, they traveled to Odenheim, for the allfather Odin had to be made aware of his new subject.
Read Part 2 of "The Boy Who Would Live With the Gods"
This excerpt was taken from Aqualon, Rise of the Broken, chapter 6.
“You really shouldn’t do that, unless you are ready to lose your life.” It was mother’s voice so I turned around, abandoning the basin with the turning gear inside, the one that looked like a magical waterwheel, splashing, always splashing.
“I am sorry, mother,” I said, withdrawing my hand.
She took her own and put it softly on my shoulder. “No my son, it is I who is sorry. I should have warned you right away. Do not apologize for your curiosity; it is a quality of the strong and the wise. How have you fared in my absence?”
I looked at the door. “I have walked in the forest for a bit. It is very beautiful, but it gets cold if I go too far.”
Freyja nodded to that. “Yes, winter has a strong hold over this land. It bends the knee to me and so I let it have the forest as the leal subject it is.”
I did not understand. She went to the long table and pulled a small sphere engraved with runes and Yamato characters alike from within the many furs she was wearing, putting it on the table with care. “Here it is: the lexicon I could procure. The tribes of the North took theirs with them quite a while ago when they marched for the Saltplains, but there was one they acquired in a raid on one of the Seventeen Yonder Islands. Nord or not, the lexicon will choose the right name for you, if you so desire,” she said. The lexicons are eternal relics of worlds long past. It is said they can see a man’s destiny and grant him a name befitting of that. Some believe that there is great power in names, especially among the northern tribes. Not all people had the privilege of using a lexicon though, locating one and getting permission from its holders was oft a perilous pilgrimage. For this reason many would pass down great names to their children, names once granted by a lexicon, in hope that some of that destiny would rub off.
Hesitantly, I reached for the small sphere, and as my fingers touched it, the runes and signs began to glow brightly. I quickly retracted my hand in fear of getting hurt by it, but instead it began to levitate and part. The sphere grew larger as it split into many rings that rotated around a core of light on several layers, making it look like some awe inspiring machine of sorts. A strange choir of voices called out one word:
And then the name was projected onto the surface of the table in glowing letters of the old alphabet of Guantil-ya, one of the Seventeen Yonder Islands that lies in the Ocean Belt below the Spiral Sea. The sphere compacted again and was nothing but a small metal ball on the table once more. “It is done then,” Freyja said. “My Plâton.”
So my name was to be Plâton. It had a strange, foreign ring to it. Even though all men are born with the gift of one hundred tongues, as parents raise their children, some dialects are spoken more frequently in different cultures, and with Freyja I had spoken mostly in the tongue favored by the Spider Tribe Kaltani, who hunted alongside giant frost spiders, and the Angel Saxons from whose stony halls most of the Valkyries were said to have come.
“The old gods are proud,” Freyja then said, “courtesy requires of me to bring you to them before I raise you as my own, Plâton. They will not want you, but they will not deny me either. Come with me, but speak no word when we enter the great hall of the Aesir unless you are spoken too. Will you promise me that?”
I nodded. “I promise, mother.”
We walked out into the forest and wandered there for quite some time. When I asked how the Nordmen had raided Guantil-ya, even though the Great Land and the Iron Belt lay between the North and the Ocean Belt, she had told me that they had not gone that way but used the power of Asgard.
It was quite a long stride through all those conifers, and the further we went the more the idyllic green was covered in layers and layers of snow that began to crunch underneath out feet.
But even though it should have gotten colder and colder it was always nice and warm while I walked besides her, as if a tranquil spring was surrounding her very being. From time to time I thought I saw silhouettes whisking about the snow but I could never make any of them out. Whether they were animals or people I could not say at the time.
Even though I remembered little of my life before I was found by Freyja, I did notice that much was different about the way this realm felt compared to what I was used to. Even the air smelled much different, and though I thought I could recall the sight of coniferous forests from my homeland, the trees here seemed to be growing to three times their size, broad as mighty oaks and each as tall as a great watchtower.
From time to time there would be an elk or a bear, all freakishly large, but they seemed tame as kittens when they walked by Freyja.
“Why do the animals grow so big here?” I asked her curiously.
She looked around and spied the elk that had me ask that question. “I suppose they do grow larger on this side,” she mused. “Perhaps it is the presence of ancient might that makes them grow strong. Or the savage hunt that allows only the strongest here not to perish.”
I nodded slowly. “Will I perish too? I am not very strong,” I said with a fearful voice.
Freyja sighed then. “Not as long as you are with me, son. But do be careful, there will be those who may want to do you harm here. It is said that in times of peace the war-like man will destroy himself. Well, we are a war-like people. The last great battle the old gods have fought in was during the Age of Heroes and before that there was only the war that shaped the world. Only few wars are within our scope you must know, for we are many thousands of years old and are not concerned with battles that do not have the potential to kill us.
But peace makes kind men grow cruel here, always be wary of that my son, never forget.”
And I remember taking hold of her skirts then like the frightened little boy I was. “I will not forget mother,” I promised.
So it came that we left the small woods of whom Freyja had named herself keeper. Tree’s end revealed wide, grassy plains wafting in the breeze. There were some fields as well, planted with different crops, but no man plowed the field or reaped the harvest; instead strange large machines that were puffing out white and black smoke were tending to those fields and taking care of the work of men. I clung closer to my mother, “What are those things?”
I wanted to know.
“Be at ease, they mean you no harm, son. Those are machines that were given to us by the technocrats of Borealis when the war during the Age of Heroes was brought to an end. This gift they gave us to seal the peace, and since then no man here has ever needed to break his back and sweat over the fields. Though some say it is not for the better. Hard work makes strong and humble men. Aesirian men are strong regardless, but they lose a shred of their humility with each passing day I fear. They sit in tall halls, making plans for wars that never come, dwelling on those that have long passed.”
There was nothing I could reply to that, so I simply listened and committed what I heard to memory. Freyja had sternly warned me about the old gods we were about to meet, and above all I was filled with anxiety and doubt. I had rather just stayed in the small woods with my mother, stayed there forever. It was a kind place.
As I thought about that, my gaze struck the great oak tree that stood afar on the plains. But this tree was grand beyond measure; I had to look upwards to the sky to see its end - only it ended not like most trees: its crown was pressed flat, almost to a disk, and it carried a great castle on its branches made of gray stone that had been polished and made to shine like crystal. To this day I have never seen a castle greater and I have been to the city of Yamaseki, which has a castle as large as a smaller city lifted up on great pillars of stone.
“Will we go up there?” I asked her.
She nodded gracefully. “Indeed we will. The men of Asgard climb the tree every day as proof of their strength and endurance, but there is a rope winch floor as well; we will use that one to get to the top.”
Arriving at the Great Tree of Asgard, Holtgramr, which carries the great castle of Odenheim on its canopy, Freyja and Plâton travel upwards to the home of the Allfather, casting their gaze across the land of Asgard.
Read Part 3 of "The Boy Who Would Live With the Gods"
This excerpt was taken from Aqualon, Rise of the Broken, chapter 9.
The ascent took a great, long time. The winch moved us up slowly and the tree was gargantuan, even more so when seen close up. It was like a giant’s arm that reached into the clouds, holding the great castle in its palm, the crown.
Little did I know what kind of future this winch was carrying me to, little did I know of the hardships to come and the cruelty of the old gods. All I thought to know at that time was that I was safe with Freyja, and I stood closely by her as I watched the meads and farmlands underneath grow wider and the harvesting machines and livestock smaller.
In the distance I saw more and more of the Small Woods - that was what Freyja had called them - but in reality they were as vast as a dark green ocean of trees, betraying their name, and what was more, there were a great many five-sided glades with flickering blue lights inside. “What are those specks of light?” I wanted to know.
Mother looked down at the Small Woods and weighed her head times left, times right. “Well, those are gateways to Midgard, the world that you come from. The living such as us cannot pass through them, but the souls of the dead do. Those who honor us still that is:
Make sure to keep these things and check
For pocket knife,
For water skin,
For safety of your hearth and kin,
And for the afterlife:
A lodestone kept around your neck.
It is my task to guide the souls who adhere to this to the afterlife, the realm of Hel.”
I nodded. “What is it like; the afterlife?” I wanted to know then. She gazed at the blue lights in silence for a while. “That is for the dead to know and for us to learn. I may be immortal, but I feel that one day even I may know, perhaps when the world finally crumbles to dust and time comes to an end…”
It seemed that I had started a train of thought in her that went off into the distance all too quickly and her gaze wandered up to the sky that was ever shrinking under the tree’s canopy towards which we were moving.
“Oh,” she then said, a melancholic smile playing about her lips, “but these souls go to Helgard of course, that is a place I know. A waystation to the afterlife you might say. It is much like this place: Unchanging, boring, another trap of immortality one might say.” And more she would not reveal then.
After what seemed like hours, we finally reached the crown and went through thick layers of branches and leaves as broad as a grown man. Even the journey through that thicket took quite a while, but once we were past it, we reached the castle gate.
It was beautiful and grand and obviously built by true masters who wanted their names to echo through history. Freyja told me some of their names: Fjötl of Forty-Four Hammer Strokes, Bearin of One Hundred Hammer Strokes, and Minnewalt of One Hammer Stroke, as we stepped before the great gate. It was made of age-old wood and engraved over and over with Nordic runes, which had been filled up with precious gold. This was the fabled angelscript, the ancient art of magic of the Angel Saxons.
There was a smaller gate at the foot of the left wing, no doubt to let single persons and smaller groups in. Freyja took hold of a heavy iron ring and knocked three times. – Oh yes, iron, for you see the Angel smiths get their iron and steel from Asgard, the only other source of it apart from the Iron Belt and the walls of the Spiral Sea –. For a moment nothing happened, then a deep, booming voice spoke: “Who wishes to enter Odenheim?”
“Freyja, mother of Hnoss, mother of Gersemi, mother of Plâton, Lady of the Small Woods.” When she spoke my name, she looked down at me briefly, and I felt as if I had been vouched for in front of a great power. The small gate opened to let us enter the castle, which I now knew was called ‘Odenheim’…
The Court of Odin
At the top of Holtgramr, Freyja and Plâton stand in front of the gate of Odenheim. They are allowed to enter and soon stand before Odin and his court. While the Allfather is wary of Freyja, he begrudgingly allows her to keep Plâton, but the strained relationship between the two gods of old becomes apparent even to the little boy.
Read Part 4 of "The Boy Who Would Live With the Gods"
This excerpt was taken from Aqualon, Rise of the Broken, chapter 10.
The castle called Odenheim was as large on the inside as it appeared on the outside. Tall hallways adorned with and fine weapons the pelts of giant animals revealed an inside where the walls of stone, that had been so strangely smooth and uniform on the outside, were rough and uneven, strangely perpetuating the atmosphere of a huge cave system that someone had made his home. There was distant laughter and the clanking of tankards echoing from here and there though I wasn’t quite sure where it actually came from.
Freyja knew where we had to go and I followed along. It was a long way to go, but we arrived inside a great hall with a large fire pit at its center, furnished with many skewers mounted on top; some of them roasted chunks of greasy meat, and a great one was hoisting an enormous boar. It was filled with glowing coals, and the smoke slowly drafted up to a hole in the ceiling. There were two long tables to either side of the pit, long enough to seat a hundred or more and at the end of the hall was a great throne carved from black stone on which an old bearded man of tall stature perched thoughtfully, seemingly observing the men. His eyes were hidden by a woolen hood and a tall spear of strange design leaned against the wall next to him. Around a big, round, oaken table to his front they sat on simple chairs talking and drinking from tankards and horns, while women in white dresses with bright, golden hair stood close-by to refill and wait upon them. The chatter died down when Freyja and I entered and the men’s eyes now rested on us. All but the old man who was either napping or looking at the table as it seemed.
“My, my, my, my, my!” one of the men said in a mocking tone, “what a rare honor to have the Lady of the Small Woods with us! Sit down and have a drink!”
“Loki!” said the old man with the kind of voice one would expect of a living oak, “show some respect to your elders.”
“Forgive me, father,” he answered glibly.
“How can you speak of respect in the presence of such folly, father?!” asked another one forcefully.
The old man lifted his hand to silence his son. “It is a question not without merit,” he spoke wearily. “Freyja, who is this child you bring into my home? My eye seems to play tricks on me, for he looks to be of Midgard, and all the faces of the children of the Old Rock that serve here are well known to me.”
None of the men dared to speak up now, all their eyes transfixed on Freyja, who did not flinch or budge an inch, until she finally answered: “This is Plâton, he is my son.”
It seemed a simple enough thing to say, but as I looked upon the table, the men seemed shocked and some even rose from their chairs.
“How strange,” the old man intoned, stroking his white beard thoughtfully. “Those who drank from the well of Wyrd were granted great might and life eternal, but as the centuries passed by, we all lost our ability to father and mother children. Is that not so, Freyja? Yet you claim this is your son?”
Freyja inclined her head in a slight nod. “That is so, my lord.”
“Truly strange then,” he continued, “that you should have a son, don’t you think? You did not carry this boy to term, surely, or have you found yourself a hero with a magic member?”
“He fell to the frost at the Asengate. I took him into my home and nursed him back to strength at my hearth. The realm of Midgard left him for dead and he was born again in my arms.” Freyja spoke this unwaveringly, her eyes fixed upon the old man, paying none of the others any heed.
He did not reply right away, but in the end he nodded, his face finally visible to me: like earth it was, and nothing could be read from its expression. “So be it. But you may yet live to regret this; both of you. The weak have no place in Asgard, heed my words.” And with that it was decided.
Mumbling arose amongst the men at the table, traveling through the hall like the rustling of leaves until finally the festive mood returned; though lessened.
That already had been all our business for the day. But it had gotten late, so mother arranged for us to stay the night in Odenheim…
The Old Gods
Freyja tells Plâton about the Old Gods and the Reshaping of the World, and as they leave Odenheim, Plâton's life in the Smallwoods of Freyja begins.
Read Part 5 of "The Boy Who Would Live With the Gods"
This excerpt was taken from Aqualon, Rise of the Broken, chapter 16.
There isn’t much I can tell you about the night I spent in Odenheim all those years ago. Certain things happened, but I shall not speak of them. It was then that I truly learned that I was not welcome in the realm of the gods. From that day on, I was close to my mother most of the time. She would show me around her realm, the small woods, though they are to date the largest forest I have ever seen, Brammenwoods and Odenwald Forest included, and time and again I would walk quietly by her side when she welcomed the souls of the dead. Freyja had the honored duty to guide those souls to the gates of Helgard, the realm of the dead.
Oh, I am sure you have heard much about the cycle of rebirth, and much about it is true, I suppose, but you have to understand that it is what we call ‘the big wheel’. The realm of Helgard is ‘the small wheel’. A realm created by the faceless world-shaper to appease the gods and establish their hold of power over those who worship them. The tribe closest to their realm, the Angel Saxons, take dutiful care of the stone circles erected all over the Great Land in Freyja’s name. Those circles, called the angel stones, link the Great Land with the realm of Asgard and the souls of all those still sworn to the old gods may travel through there rather than follow the call of the Great Clockwork. If they do, they will end up in the small woods, and my mother takes them by the hand, and brings them to Helgard. She told me about that place, saying that it was made of golden halls in the north, where men and gods would feast and tell stories of great wars and go on glorious hunts, and a prison for the damned reaching far underground, locking them in punishment until their eventual release into the big wheel, only sometimes letting them above ground to serve as game in glorious hunts.
“In the end, Helgard is an illusion. A way to dwell on life while denying its cycle,” my mother once said to me. “The gods know of the Great Clockwork, have known of it since ancient times. It is everywhere and nowhere, it is you and me, and everyone that is and ever was and ever will be. An endless cycle that moves forward through time: not a circle, but a spiral. Our immortality, too, is an illusion. In time we will be so eroded by the turning of the centuries that our souls will leak out and rejoin the big wheel.
Do you know why the gods are immortal and strong?” she asked me then.
I shook my head and she continued: “The gods are immortal and strong because when long, long ago the world was split into the realms of old and connected by the rainbow river, there was a great well of Wyrd in the center of this realm, Asgard, and the Aesir drank from its water to gain everlasting might and life eternal. It was a well not filled with water, but souls, or something very much like souls. The substance of its cool riches came not from the depths of the ground, but from Great Clockwork, making it a connecting point. When the Aesir drank from the well, their connection to the clockwork was amplified by a great factor and they became more than man, they became gods. In time, a man came to our world, a Weltenwandler more powerful than any living being had ever been in all the Nine Realms, and he said he would rebuild the world according to his design. Some joined his cause, like the Swarten, the Midgardians, and the Vanier, such as I am, and some resisted, like the Albenmannen and Jöten and the Aesir, who would not let the world they had conquered for themselves be remade free. He brought in his wake a great war that shattered the realms, and by consuming the well of Wyrd, he forged the shards together to a great ball, the world we now call the realm of the middle, and that man calls ‘Aqualon’. The faceless world-shaper, or god-king, appeased the factions who had joined his side by giving the world of the middle to man and the Swarten and recreated the realm of the Aesir, Asgard, for them to hold as well as a realm below, the realm of Helgard, where the two were free to live together, if they so chose. Thus, the well of Wyrd was gone forever and with it the last intersecting point between the real world and the Great Clockwork. Only the gods remain as remnants of that connection. We, and little fragments of Wyrd that are kept save amongst us.”
I remember listening, memorizing every word of this tale. I felt that there was a hidden meaning in these words I had to uncover one day, and I would be right. Perhaps it wasn’t even so much what she said as it was what she didn’t say, but in time I came to realize something wonderful. But more on that later.
The days passed, turned to weeks, months, and I grew older, bit by bit. I cannot deny that in time I felt drawn to the others: the gods of Asgard and the few Angel Saxon servants allowed to work here, even though most of them held me in great contempt. Every full moon, the men would go out into the wilds for the hunt, chasing after the great beasts that lived in this realm. I began to practice in secret, though I am sure my mother was well aware, to one day join them on the hunt and prove myself.
Somewhere deep down I think I realized that I could not live out my life at the side of my mother for all eternity. When I first asked to join them, they beat me savagely. And the second time too. The third time, they would let me join them at last, and a great boar almost killed me, much to their amusement. Every time I returned home wounded, my mother would worry gravely for me, but I would not have her interference on this, so all she could do was heal my injuries.
The Moon War
The ancestral realm of Asgard was relocated to the surface of the moon during the Reshaping of the World, and the remnants of the rainbow river that connected all Nine Realms were forged into a bridge that connected Asgard and the highest point of the North Pole. While Midgardians and Swartalben, who had helped the faceless world-shaper, were granted the Great Land of the new planet for their new home, the Vanier refused this gift, unwilling to give up the splendor of old. In their minds they deserved no less than Asgard itself for defeating the Aesir.
When the war had ended and the planet had been formed, they traveled to the moon across the rainbow bridge, and there they fought the already beaten-down Aesir, but were repelled by the awesome might of Wyrd that coursed through the bodies of the now Old Gods. Defeated, yet still hungering for Asgard, they fled into the tall mountains surrounding the realm and hid there for millennia, growing their strength, evading the leisurely attacks of world-weary Aesir until they believed themselves ready to wage war once more.
However, their final rallying against the Old Gods would end in tragedy, and a young Plâton, who had striven to earn the Aesir's respect was among the Nordmen serving Asgard when the battles of the Moon War were waged and the few hundred remaining Vanier were slaughtered to the last one. Plâton had received his first taste of battle, and it turned bitter in his mouth, and he saw that bitterness and the cruelty of which his mother had spoken squarely on the faces of the Aesir around him. When the dust of the battle settled, only one Vanier was left of the once proud race of Vanaheim.
A Dress of Flowers
Because she had chosen to remain neutral and not join the Aesir in the fight against her former kinsmen, Freyja had laid the final stone in the mosaic of Odin's disdain for her. In the end, he came to collect her and lead her through the Gate of Helgard, the very gate to which she herself had led the souls of the Nordmen that came to the Smallwoods through the Angel Stones of Aqualon. Her last act was to veil Plâton in a concealing cloak of protection and ask of him to guide the souls of the dead as she had for so many thousands of years, to listen and learn from their stories as he helped them move on, and to live...
As he led her away, Odin declared that no longer would Plâton be a son of Asgard, and if ever he were to be found, the Allfather would take no responsibility for what his children would do to him.
Read Part 6 of "The Boy Who Would Live With the Gods"
This excerpt was taken from Aqualon, Rise of the Broken, chapter 16.
And so it had come to this, the last Vanier were slaughtered in their uprising against the gods. They had dwelled in the caves on the great divide that made Asgard closed in itself, forging their thirst for revenge against the Aesir who had fought them in the first great war, long before even the First Age of Aqualon. Oh, I remember those dreadful days of battle, but in the end, they all perished at the cruel hands of the Aesir, and no day in my life do I remember more clearly than the last day of that battle, for there was only one Vanier left in Asgard, one alone: my mother Freyja.
And this time, the decision was made to have her pay for the sins of her kin, and the gods were coming for my sweet mother. As they stormed for her little house in the small woods I remember her calm, it was always there, like the ocean on bright days. And she spoke to me: “Oh, my sweet Plâton, you have made my heart brighter in these past few years than it has been in the thousand years before. How you remind me of the children I once carried to term and raised, and you are my son in your own right, do not forget that. In all these years the Aesir could not accept you, for they think you weak, but I know better, my love, I have seen the strength in you. I cannot avoid my fate any longer, but I can, at the very least, protect you, even if it is just for a day more, or a week. When they come for me, they will not see you, and you must be very quiet so they cannot hear you either, do you understand?”
I could never go against her word, she who had saved me and taken me as her own, so I nodded with tears in my eyes. “I promise, mother.”
“That’s my boy,” she said and gently stroked my hair. “When I am gone, you will need to fend for yourself. Even without me, my influence will remain strong here in the small woods. Look to the animals, they will be kind to you if you are kind to them, and they may help and protect you, just as they need your help and protection.”
I nodded again. “Yes mother, I will watch over them for you.”
She smiled fondly. “And the souls that come here through the angel stones… They are but lost in these woods. Many times have you accompanied me when I brought them to the gates of Helgard. You know the paths and the woods; if you can, guide them on their way, don’t let them wander stray and become lost souls. And listen to them, every man has his own wisdom, allow them to share and learn from them yourself.” As so often, she was trying to teach me of the greater meaning behind all things.
Naïve as I was I nodded and promised again to heed her words, not truly grasping them in their entirety. And as we embraced a final time, the door was knocked down and there he stood: Odin, the Father. Oh, I remember the times I had seen him, during the many feasts in Odenheim. He would usually be quiet and observant, a wise man in his own right, and sometimes he would tell stories of the past, even to me, the outsider. From all the gods, he alone had never teased me or caused me harm, but he too had grown bitter, this I knew, and he had no place in his heart for me. His gray hair was thick and fell smoothly on his shoulders that held up a black cloak, worn over heavy silver-steel mail, forged by the Angel Saxons. His beard was gray as well and braided with black leather cords and his right eye was always closed, covered by a long scar he often spoke of in his stories: When in the Age of Heroes a technocrat had dropped from the sky, where he had ridden a great war moth, ramming a great lance into the ground that pulsed out a blade-like wave, mowing down their lines like a giant, cutting wheat with a scythe, Odin and his sons had been grievously wounded. After they had won the battle though, Odin commended the enemy warrior for his feat of power and took the lance as a prize, giving it the name Gungnir. I saw it once or twice, hanging in the great hall of Odenheim on the wall… Now this man stood in our house and waited for my mother to arise. He truly didn’t seem to notice my presence.
Freyja stood up straight and faced the intruder: “So, you have come, you of all the Aesir, Echwaz.”
He seemed unimpressed. “It has been many eons since I have been called by that name. You are the last living being to remember it, Freyja of Vanaheim.”
“So it is. Will you smite me right here and now, or is there to be some form of performance piece attached to my execution?” she asked in a mocking tone.
To this day I admire her defiance in the face of death.
“There will be no execution,” Odin said in a solemn voice, and for a moment I felt the foolish hope rise in me that maybe they would let my mother live, that maybe she wouldn’t be torn from me, but it didn’t last long. “Since you have guided the souls of our peoples to Helgard since olden times, I have judged you to join them on their journey. You, Freyja of Vanaheim, Lady of the small woods, are sentenced by me, Odin, Allfather, to eternal banishment in the realm of Helgard until such time you choose to shed your immortality and be reborn. I will bring you to the gate, where you shall pass and never return. I do not presume to judge you for the crimes of your people, therefore a higher power will judge you in this, and it will determine your place in Helgard for all eternity. Follow me now.”
She let out a long sigh, as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders; then she grabbed a feathered cloak from the wall and threw it over her shoulders, ready to follow.
“One more thing,” he said. “The boy-“
“Is human!” she interrupted him in a commanding tone. “He cannot be held accountable for the Vanier, nor for myself.”
Odin nodded. “As you will. But know that he is no longer welcome here. If an Aesir should ever chance upon him in this realm, he will not be held accountable for what happens.”
I couldn’t say for sure because I only got a short glance, but it seemed to me, as if she was crying then. But then again, so was I…
As they left, I followed them. I felt I had to see my mother off, as no one else would. But I was mistaken: as I quietly followed the two of them while they made their way to the gates of Helgard, the many animals of the small woods made their appearances, gargantuan though they were, they walked up to the two of them graciously, suspiciously eyed by Odin, and one by one, they put a little snowblossom on my mother’s feathered cloak until she was dressed beautifully in flowers.
The True Valkyries
Fleeing Freyja's longhouse into the cold depths of the Smallwoods, Plâton finds unexpected allies in some of the oversized animals of the forest, who turn out to be Valkyries of Freyja hiding from Odin and his subjects just like him. They too consider themselves children of Freyja and he makes his decision to find true might.
Read Part 7 of "The Boy Who Would Live With the Gods"
Life was different now; everything was. I retreated from the sight of the gate after my mother had been cast down there. As it closed shut, I felt her spell fade and I was visible to the eye of anyone again; never before had I felt so naked. Just like the great animals of the small woods, I now was merely prey to the Aesir, ultimately helpless before their awesome strength.
“Mother, where do I go?” I asked, even though she could not hear me now. A deer stalked near me, its legs reaching up to my shoulders, and it kindly nuzzled my hair. “I guess we are alone now, you and me both,” I admitted, and carefully reached for its snout to pat it.
To my surprise, the creature answered me with a soft, female voice: “You, me, and all the animals and souls. I have not seen an Aesir care for anyone weaker than themselves since the Age of Heroes.”
I looked up at its majestic form and glistening eyes. “You speak?”
She bowed her head slightly. “We all do. We have been the humble servants of the Lady since ancient times.” She lifted her head again and turned her nose into the wind, sniffing. “They are coming, it is the hunt, I fear. Follow me, young one, we must hide.”
I nodded, still overwhelmed, and followed her as quickly as my feet could carry me, but it was difficult to keep up with her speed and sure footing in this treacherous forest. Without my mother around to spread the spring, winter’s hold on the thicket was stronger than ever and the cold was slowly numbing my feet. Now and again I would stumble, sometimes fall, until finally the deer stopped and kindly allowed me to sit on her back.
We were moving faster now, but I wasn’t saved yet: again and again I had to dodge low hanging branches that threatened to knock me down or break my neck. After a long while, we arrived at a glade. Here, several animals had gathered already: a bear, two snow-leopards, a small pack of wolves, and another deer, all of unnaturally huge size.
“So, you all can speak?” I asked them testily.
Some bowed their heads as if nodding, and then the bear said, also with a woman’s voice: “We can.”
I carefully dismounted and eyed them all, standing on that clearing. “You all can speak, but you never said a word to me for all this time? And you are a girl-bear!” I pointed at the bear accusingly.
“Yes… why is that important?” the bear inquired in surprise; then one of the wolves, also female, said:
“We never spoke before out of respect for the Lady. It would not have been becoming for us to speak without first being spoken to.”
“Well she could have told me that you can speak!” I said briskly, “by the old man, I went on hunts with the Aesir!” Suddenly, I felt quite relieved that I had never shown enough prowess to kill any of the hunting party’s prey. Though that did not lift the guilt I felt for my participation.
“Maybe you just never asked her?” the other deer suggested.
I turned towards her with my finest are-you-kidding-me stare: “So what? If the moon was in fact a big rice cake in the sky, that would be something I’d never ask about too, but that doesn’t make it a piece of information not worth telling!”
The deer cocked her head. “I wouldn’t know; there is no moon in the sky here, only Aqualon.”
I sighed. “What do we do now?” I asked.
They all looked at each other, but none of them spoke then, and I felt as if they were looking to me to answer that question. I scratched my head of course. “Well, mother told me to take care of the lost souls, guide them to the gate in her stead. Maybe you could help me with that…”
That seemed to make them uncomfortable. The deer that had brought me here said: “The Aesir have forbidden it…”
“Why?” I asked surprised.
“To punish us,” she replied.